Unmasking the mask profiteers

A former Trump staffer with no experience landed a $3 million federal contract for medical masks he couldn’t deliver.

Everyone should wear a protective medical mask—but some ought to be in ski masks, like those favored by bank robbers and muggers.

Take Zach Fuentes, a former deputy chief of staff for Donald Trump.

He resigned from the White House in January, looking for some sort of lucrative entrepreneurial future. Then, the pandemic hit, and as Trump’s incompetent government quickly caused it to spread, Fuentes thought: Aha, opportunity!

By April, he had set up a corporate façade for hustling contracts to provide medical supplies to government agencies. Only 11 days after he opened for business—bingo!—the former Trump aide won a $3 million deal from the Department of Health to ship respirator masks to Navajo Nation hospitals that were being overrun by hundreds of COVID-19 cases.

Fuentes was awarded the contract with little competitive bidding, even though he had no knowledge about medical supplies or experience in federal contracting, and even though his price of $3.24 per mask was triple the pre-pandemic cost of one dollar each.

Oh, he also had no masks, so he bought a batch from China—a bit hypocritical, since Trump is frantically trying to blame Chinese officials for his own massive screw-ups in handling the pandemic in our country.

Worse, the bulk of Chinese masks Fuentes procured turned out to provide inadequate protection, were unsuitable for medical use, or were not the type he promised to deliver. So, the Navajo people didn’t get the help they urgently needed, Fuentes and the supplier each made off with a bundle, and we taxpayers got mugged.

This is what happens when the government is turned over to insider profiteers. At least these bungling bandits should have to wear scarlet masks, so we can point them out to our children and say, “Don’t let them control your future.”

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OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

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